Are you travelling this summer? Jetting off to some exotic locale, or maybe just visiting family and friends? Whatever you are doing, if there is flying involved, chances are your thoughts and emotions about the trip run the gamut. When I talk to people in my circuit about the anticipation of the experience there is a lot of moaning and groaning… Complaints about the lines at the airport, heavy luggage, the boring wait at the gate, etc. And when reflecting back on the flight, it is the common narrative about cramped seating, annoying families, turbulence, long taxis on the runway… the list goes on.
This summer, when I ventured to the airport with my two sons to embark on the voyage to Florida to see my mom, I turned the usually grueling experience into a most-mindful one. As I am learning more and more each day, the attitude that you bring to any situation is what makes or breaks the experience. The same goes for the oft-dreaded experience of the family flight.
The first factor of the family flying experience to be addressed is the crowds. There is the hustle and bustle and waiting on lines at the airport to consider. Instead of feeling annoyed by the presence of the other passengers, really look at them. See them. Try to imagine where they might be going and why. Observe their demeanor and sense their energy. Maybe they are venturing somewhere in search of adventure, maybe they are escaping something awful, maybe they are surprising someone they love, or maybe they are heading somewhere to mourn. Sense the warmth of the happy travelers and send healing energy (or if it is your thing, pray) for the ones who seem to be suffering.
Next is to turn the physical experience of the plane and the flight into a mindful one. Barring extreme claustrophobia, it isn’t too difficult to focus your attention away from the cramped quarters. Just close your eyes, concentrate on your breathing, relax your muscles, and let yourself melt into the seat. When the plane has found its position on the runway, appreciate the speed of the plane on the ground just before liftoff… faster than any car. When the plane tilts upward and you are airborne, feel your back sink even deeper into the seat and truly appreciate the miracle for what it is. You are flying! Picture your body, without the plane and the passengers, moving alone through the air at that speed. Look out the window at the shrinking landscape and appreciate the privilege of this view which should technically belong only to the birds. Appreciate the largeness of the world and your small place in it. And finally, appreciate the amazing human collaboration that created a technology which could make such a thing possible. To our ancestors this would be nothing short of magic.
And now to tackle the landing. For me, this is always the most terrifying part of the flight. If you feel the same, just close your eyes and breathe through it. When the plane touches down and slows to a comfy speed, ready to taxi to the gate, feel genuine gratitude for the safe journey and for all of the blessings in your life. (Thank God, if you like.) Then try to envision the distance your body has just traveled and appreciate that miracle one again. And finally…, most importantly…, when the lady behind you finally apologizes for her child kicking the back of your seat during the entire flight, breathe in, breathe out, smile, and say, “No worries. It was like a free back massage!” then send her a little positive energy. She may need it for her week at her cranky in-laws’!